Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Deep Love

It's been awhile since I posted about Star Trek in these parts, so I figured now was as good a time as any to again renew my geek bonafides. You might remember that last February I talked about how syndicated sequel Star Trek: The Next Generation hasn't held up quite as well as I would have liked in the quarter-century since it debuted. Although its place in history is already assured, both as an appendage of the Trek franchise and as a hugely successful series in its own right (financially, if not always creatively), I've long held to the belief that Next Gen's most significant role may well be that it created conditions fertile enough to launch the spin-off series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Starring the terrific Avery Brooks and backed up by a stellar ensemble, Deep Space Nine was the top-rated syndicated series for the entirety of its seven season span (itself no small feat), but it's also remained -- somewhat paradoxically -- the forgotten sibling of the Star Trek family. Indeed, this may well be the reason it holds up as well as it does. While Next Generation and Voyager immediately after (the nadir of the brand, in my view), were both tasked with upholding "The Franchise" -- nothing too risky, nothing too risqué -- Deep Space was left alone to tend to its corner of the universe (both literally and thematically). This freedom allowed the show's creatives (Battlestar Galactica's Ronald D. Moore among them) to explore avenues of storytelling much more of a piece with the groundbreaking original series then any other show that followed in its wake.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Recommended Reading

One of the most oft-deployed, easily dispatched lines of attack against Barack Obama during the '08 presidential campaign was his supposed lack of "executive experience" because he'd never led a local government (never mind that John McCain hadn't either). Even Sarah Palin, they argued, had more executive experience than Obama (and, of course, we all know how that story ended). With the 2012 elections bearing down on us, I've been saying for awhile that the whole "executive experience" thing holds even less water than it used to, because Obama now has three years as Leader of the Free World to put on his resume, something I'm fairly certain none of his challengers can lay claim to. This is why Steve Benen finds presumed (not that "presumed" means very much this far out) Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney's decision to lay into Obama on the "experience" track puzzling, to say the least.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Of Super Suits

It's been a few weeks now since Smallville reached its conclusion and Clark Kent finally, at long last, accepted his destined role as a man-in-tights. Was the finale perfect? No, but it had enough emotional payoff moments to make it worthwhile, and I thought it was a mostly-satisfactory close to a show that had been hit-and-miss throughout its run anyway. Some of the other reactions I've seen, however, have ranged from mild annoyance to outright apoplexy.

Much of that fan anger seems to stem from how the show's creatives (including star Tom Welling, who I'm sure played a part) approached the episode's final moments, including their decision to play coy on including a clear, full-on shot of Clark fully suited up in all his Superman glory. As I mentioned in a comment over at HuffPo, where my review also appeared, I really didn't have a problem with it (this could be considered spoiler-stuff, so I've put it after the jump. Caveat clicker!):

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Paul Ryan Poison Pill

Speaking of going all in, the results in Tuesday's NY-26 special election are giving some indication of how the House Republicans' trumpeting of Rep. Ryan's Medicare/Medicaid-destroying budget is proving a poison pill for the party. What's extraordinary, however, is how the Senate Republicans -- willingly, even! -- followed their House brethren into the buzz-saw on Thursday by voting, almost to-the-one, their support for the Ryan plan. While the bill failed anyway, intended from the start as a purely symbolic sop to the GOP's new Tea Party overlords, every senator who voted "aye" to killing Medicare now has their very own albatross to carry with them come election season.

Whether the need not to anger the Tea Partiers that make up their rank-and-file for fear of incurring a primary challenge, or the need to stay in good with the multi-millionaires and corporations who fill their purses, there are several degrees of shortsightedness here working at cross-purposes for the Republicans. Their confused and, frankly, dangerous approach to Medicare, Medicaid, and other entitlement programs (don't think Social Security isn't on the block too) -- nicely crystallized for us with the Paul Ryan budget -- demonstrates the ideological travails afflicting the modern day GOP as its far right moves even farther to the right. As Robert Reich argues, this gives the Democrats a huge leg-up for the 2012 elections.

Avenging Signs

It's been nearly a month now since Marvel's Thor impressively hammered his way through your local multiplex, and while Fox has X-Men: First Class next week and Warners has Green Lantern two weeks later to scratch the cinematic superhero itch (although I'm pretty sure there's an ointment for that...), the next brick in the comic giant's interconnected movie universe won't be laid into place until Captain America slings his shield on the big screen come late July. 

All of this, as we know, is merely the opening act for next summer's unprecedented Avengers opus, now lensing under the helm of Joss Whedon, which teams the company's marquee stars in what's sure to be a true cinematic event. While Avengers is under a cone of silence, I don't doubt that plenty of details will leak out between now and its May 4 launch. Still, for the uninitiated or for those who are just curious, the fine folks at Movies.com have compiled a handy list of what we know so far, and what we may need to know going forward (if you haven't seen Thor yet, this might be considered a spoiler minefield, so tread lightly). 

And if you really want to go all in on the nerdery, jump on over to Film Buff Online, where they've compiled an elaborate, interweaving timeline of the Marvel Movie Universe -- encompassing the Iron Man flicks, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, and, eventually, The Avengers -- that's as impressive as it is exhaustive. I'm dating myself a bit here, but it brings back fond memories of the fun Marvel Saga comic from the '80s, which did something similar by retroactively tying together the disparate threads of Marvel's comic universe all the way back to its early '60s origins.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Recommended Reading

On Monday I linked to New York Magazine's in-depth look at Roger Ailes, and now its Rolling Stone's turn to take a few swings at the Fox News founder, with a lengthy piece up examining Ailes' roots in the Republican political machine, and how he's applied every one of those lessons learned to create, per the article, "the most successful propaganda machine in history."

Hatin' in Tennessee

The last time we talked about the planned mosque being built in Murfreesboro, TN, CNN had given the comically hapless group of Islam-haters bent on halting its construction enough rope to hang themselves. Undaunted, the Quixotic band of bigots then took to the courts, armed with a sure-to-be-bulletproof argument -- something about perceived slights and imagined hardships under the non-existent booga-booga of Sharia law. Predictably, this too was tossed, leaving the mosque opponents to dream up yet more reasons for why the First Amendment applies to all religions except that one.

While we've seen our share of anti-Muslim activity across the fruited plain of late, some horrifying and some hilarious, I think Murfreesboro may be that junction where religious bigotry and plain, old-fashioned stupidity come to a point. In running down the whys-and-wherefores of the Murfreesboro mosque story, including its recent dénouement, Leonard Pitts, Jr. (whose terrific piece from last year about facts -- or the lack thereof -- in everyday argument is also readily applicable in this case) explains exactly why we should be paying special attention to this case:
Maybe you’re tempted to turn away in disgust. Yield not to temptation. We need to see this. This is what it looks like when a country loses its mind. 
It looked like this in Germany in 1938 on Kristallnacht, in Rwanda in 1994 when the Hutus savaged the Tutsis, in America in 1942 when the Japanese were herded behind barbed wire. 
My point is explicitly not that Muslims face mass vandalism, genocide or internment. Lord only knows what they face. Rather, my point is that the psychological architecture of what happened then is identical to the psychological architecture of Murfreesboro now. Once again, we see people goaded by their own night terrors, hatreds, need for scapegoats, and by the repetitive booming of demagogues, until they go to a place beyond reason.
Much more at the link, all of it worth reading.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

IT'S OFFICIAL: Meloni Exits SVU

The upheavals in Law & Order-land don't start and stop with the recent closing of the brand's West Coast office. Its lone standard-bearer come fall, Special Victims Unit, now heading into its thirteenth year, has been going through some cast reshuffling of its own. You may remember that last June I posted about the opaque plans of series star Christopher Meloni, who's headed the cast as Detective Elliot Stabler since the show's inception in '99, beyond this year.

At the time, with the actor's contract due to expire at impending season's end, it sure sounded like he wasn't keen on re-upping, and that prediction came to pass yesterday evening, with last-minute negotiations (and pay bump) to keep Stabler on the force falling through, and Meloni announcing his departure from the NBC warhorse shortly thereafter. While no one should be surprised by this given the actor's previous comments, it is disappointing that, after so many years, audiences may not get a chance to bid Stabler a proper on-screen goodbye (barring some kind of one-off deal being reached).

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The GOP's Muslim Problem

Those of you who follow this site regularly know I've spent quite a bit of time for the last year-and-change covering the alarming rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric and actions in the public sphere, much of it propelled on the backs of electioneering politicians more interested in fearing-and-smearing their way to short-term political gains than fostering things like "understanding" and "education." Certainly, politics explains why the Republican party worked so hard to reach out to American Muslims during George W. Bush's first White House run, and it also explains why they dropped them like a bad habit shortly thereafter (y'know, what with 9/11 and all...).

Still, given how hard the GOP has worked over the last ten years to marginalize the Muslim community (something that became unambiguously clear -- as if there were any doubts -- with last year's Park51 kerfuffle), it's hard for me to understand why any Muslim would still vote Republican. In fact, you may even recall that my first piece to appear at The Huffington Post meditated on exactly that question. Well, Tim Murphy over at Mother Jones has grabbed that ball and run with it, examining the history of both parties' outreach (or lack thereof) to America's Muslims, including the heady days in the run-up to the 2000 election when George Bush (gasp!) visited a mosque, to the low-lows almost immediately thereafter.

I also think Murphy pretty much bullseyes the longterm demographic reality faced by the GOP when he says, "over the last few years, through harsh immigration laws, an embrace of 'otherism' and rhetorical jabs at Islam, GOPers have consolidated their grip on white voters at the expense of virtually everyone else." Where the once-Grand Ol' Party goes from here is anyone's guess, but at this point the xenophobia that's become part-and-parcel of the Republican message has left them so far down a ditch of their own digging that the only option left is to keep digging, which, to look at the field of luminaries currently vying for the party's 2012 nod, they seem more than happy to do.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Recommended Reading

It's long since been settled wisdom that Fox News and the Republican Party function interdependently of one another, displaying a degree of intertwining and back-patting that puts to the lie any attempts to draw a rhetorical balance with MSNBC's left-leaning view. What's become increasingly open for debate lately, however, is the question of which organization serves as the torso and which is the appendage. This in-depth profile of Fox honcho Roger Ailes and his attempts to set the Republican table for election '12 sure seems to make a pretty compelling case that it's Ailes who's wagging the GOP, and not the other way around.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Green Matters

You may recall that I enjoyed the WonderCon sizzle reel for the upcoming Green Lantern film, as well as the subsequent trailer, but despite the generally positive response this new 3D trailer has garnered on the Interwebs, I actually like it a bit less, as it highlights the struggle this project has faced from the beginning: how to sell this extensive, elaborate, potentially impenetrable mythology to a crowd that doesn't already have the Green Lantern oath committed to memory. With the film's promo campaign now in full swing (I even bought my kids GL mask-and-ring sets from Toys 'R' Us yesterday), it's a tricky proposition that hinges on selling the human elements of the story first, then slowly laying in the out-there, sci-fi stuff.

In my view, the problem with this trailer is that it does the exact opposite. It drops a mountain of exposition -- all true to the comics, mind you, which is great -- on the audience right up front, then practically dares them to wade through the CGI jungle until Ryan star Reynolds shows up. I get what they're trying to do, which is to set up the epic Star Wars-ness that the property easily has the potential to tap into, but even the original Star Wars sold itself simply as the story of a "A Boy, A Girl, and a Galaxy" before it got all "midichlorians" on us. I'm still pulling for this one, but it's a real question for me whether it'll be able to expand beyond the constituencies of Green Lantern fanboys and Ryan Reynolds fangirls who'd probably be buying their tickets regardless.

Friday, May 20, 2011

In Context

Remember the "bizarre anti-media, Unabomber-esque manifesto" from a Newt Gingrich spokesperson that I referred to in yesterday's post (now also at HuffPo) about Gingrich's implosion? Well, on last night's Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert hit upon the realization that the only way to truly do it justice was to have actor John Lithgow (soon to play a key role in Rise of the Planet of the Apes!) perform it verbatim in its entirety. After watching this, I'm sure you'll agree that it was the only way to go. In terms of political performance art, this is right up there with when Conan O'Brien (in his late, lamented Tonight Show days) had William Shatner perform excerpts from Sarah Palin's memoir.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Dead Set

So, I've already discussed my irrational paranoia about an impending zombie apocalypse on this site a few times, but does the fact that the Center for Disease Control actually has this page on their site mean they know something that we don't?

Newt Gingrich and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week

So, clearly it hasn't been a great couple of days for Newt Gingrich.

First, his entry into the 2012 Republican presidential field last week was mostly greeted with a yawn. And if anyone besides Gingrich actually believed he could ever actually be president, his appearance on Meet the Press last Sunday (and its gaffe-tastic aftermath) probably did as good a job as anything of disavowing them of such misbegotten notions.

What's astounding is that what did Newt in was an accidental moment of lucidity wherein he actually made sense when referring to Rep. Paul Ryan's euphemistically-named "Roadmap to Prosperity," which slices-and-dices Medicare like a cuisinart and is the budget of record for nearly every Republican in the House, as "radical Right Wing social engineering." Whoops, so much for Reagan's Eleventh Commandment.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Keaton on the Cowl

Has it really been twenty-two years since Tim Burton's Batman came out? On a basic level, that's difficult for me to even process, because in my mind I'm still that snotty ten-year old whose first exposure to the film came -- in those heady pre-Internet days when movies weren't spoiled three years before they even materialized -- via a posed still (the one up top, in fact) of star Michael Keaton wearing the Bob Ringwood-designed rubber suit. I can also vividly remember my first reaction, which was something like, "Micheal Keaton? Who? Everyone knows Adam West is Batman!" Needless to say, those misgivings didn't last very long, and by the time I actually saw the movie, they'd been completely banished.

In today's age of multiple comic book movies assaulting theaters within mere weeks of one another, it's hard to convey to the uninitiated just what an event the Burton Batman was at the time, and though Keaton never took ownership of the part in quite the same way, for example, Chris Reeve did with Superman, I think it's safe to say that for most people of my vintage, Michael Keaton remains the most indelible (if not definitive) actor to inhabit the iconic role (notwithstanding Christian Bale's exemplary -- soon to conclude -- take). While I think all four films in the '80s-'90s Bat-catalogue are hobbled by various flaws (some more apparent than others), I also think Keaton has never been given his fair share of credit for what he brought to the series, and what was lost when he left.

In a recent sit-down with Hero Complex's Geoff Boucher on the occasion of a career retrospective film festival, Keaton waxed nostalgic about his two film (too short!) tenure as custodian of the cinematic cape and cowl, and the indelible impact that Batman and Batman Returns left not only on the movie landscape, but also his own career. In addition, the actor also offers a peek into the method behind his portrayal of playboy millionaire Bruce Wayne, and what he thinks of the Batmen who followed in his stead. It's fascinating stuff from the famously press-shy actor, and really makes me wish we'd see more of him these days beyond the occasional cameo or character part (like last summer's The Other Guys).

Stewart v. O'Reilly Re: Common

Last week I posted a video of Jon Stewart going after Fox News for its apparently coordinated assault on the White House for Michelle Obama's invitation of rapper Common to a poetry event. If you're behind on this, rather than me restating the reasons various, sundry, and so, so stupid for this faux-outrage, just watch the Daily Show segment and then come back here. So, in response to this attack upon his personage (and his employer), Fox host Bill O'Reilly invited Stewart on his show last night to debate this very pressing issue.

Now personally, I think Stewart walked away with this one, but I have a feeling I would have felt that way regardless, mainly because I think this whole anti-Common meme in Right Wing World is about as ridiculous as ridiculous gets. Conversely, if you take your political worldview from Bill O'Reilly, there's probably nothing the Comedy Central host could have said to change your mind anyway. Nonetheless, it's an interesting convo all the same (as the pair's occasional tête-à-têtes usually are) and it's definitely worth a look. Part one is embedded below, and you can find part two after the jump.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Westward? No.

Amy Chozick at The Wall Street Journal has a little bit more info on the whys-and-wherefores of NBC's decision last week to axe Law & Order: LA after one low-rated, creatively-mixed season. Ultimately it comes from a combination of NBC's new prexy Bob Greenblatt wanting to put his own imprimatur on the ailing net separate from power producers like Dick Wolf, and an audience reception that simply didn't justify the continued expense that a Law & Order series obviously commands. And as far as the brand's future following the cancellation of LA and the soon-to-go Criminal Intent (notwithstanding the continuing Special Victims Unit, which seems to be undergoing some casting shuffles of its own), said Greenblatt tersely: "At this time there are no conversations about another Law & Order."

Well, that's that, I guess.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Smallville: The End of the Beginning

So, spoiler alert, turns out that Clark Kent becomes Superman. Who knew, right?

With its series capper airing on the CW last Friday night after a strictly-enforced "No Fly Zone" spanning ten years, two networks, and two-hundred-plus episodes, Smallville closed the loop on Clark Kent's journey toward the red, blue, and yellow future that we all knew awaited him, and in the process brought the curtain down on the longest-lived incarnation of the Man of Steel in any medium other than the comic books that birthed him. While some questions were definitively answered, others were left frustratingly opaque, and in the end, the Smallville closer exemplified the challenge faced by any show that ends its run after as much time in the trenches, whether MASH or Cheers or anything else: it's not just about giving the characters narrative closure, it's also about giving the audience emotional closure.

Friday, May 13, 2011

LAW ORDER: LA Canceled

We talked about this on Monday, and if you've been following the show's ratings trajectory for the last several weeks, it's not like this comes as a great surprise, but NBC made it official today that Law & Order: LA will THUNK to a close at the end of its current (only) season. It was hoped that the West Coast iteration of the Dick Wolf skein would take the place of the Mothership (itself canceled exactly one year ago) in the hearts & minds of viewers, and even went to series without a pilot based on its lineage, but it never quite managed to gel with audiences.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Common Stupidity

When I heard two days ago about the storm a-brewing in Right Wing World (vis-à-vis Fox News, natch) over the invitation by Michelle Obama to rapper/poet Common to participate in a poetry event at the White House, I found it difficult to believe that folks could be this clueless. Of all people, Common?  Really? With Karl Rove referring to the artist (née Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr.), as a "thug" and "misogynist," and Sean Hannity claiming his invite as proof positive -- after playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon between Obama, Common, and *gasp* Jeremiah Wright (da-da-DAH) -- that Obama had relapsed back into his supposed "radical roots." Yeah, my eyes are rolling back into my head too.

As I tweeted yesterday, to point to Common -- as "mainstream" a hip-hop artist as one can find -- as some kind of "radical" or "gangsta" not only proves out how utterly, comically clueless Hannity and his fellow travelers are, but it also indicates the extremely unsubtle race-baiting that's a regular part of the Fox News dialectic -- as if hip-hop is one-size-fits all, and what applies to one rapper must apply to all, and since President Obama enjoys hip-hop, well, guess what that says about him? It's the transitive property! Anyway, Jon Stewart thoroughly dismantled this meme, breathlessly pumped through the Fox Fear Cycle for most of Tuesday and Wednesday, on last night's Daily Show, and it's a beaut. Enjoy:


Oh, but he's just getting started. Don't miss part two after the jump!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Recommended Reading

This past Monday, a Tea Party group showed up at the capital in full Colonial drag to rattle congressional Republicans with the ultimatum that they can expect to have it held against them should they cast the necessarily, responsible vote to increase our national debt ceiling. Rather than the GOP responding in kind with a simple, "Thanks, but we don't respond to threats from grown-ups wearing funny costumes," Speaker Boehner instead doubled-down on the Tea Party-approved path of playing chicken with our credit, which in turn has opened up a fissure with the other big Republican constituency: Wall Street bankers, corporations, millionaires, billionaires, etc. As Robert Reich explains, with the debt limit vote forcing Republican to now choose between the moneybags who support them in office and the nuttybags who got them there, it's a battle of wills that may leave America's full faith and credit -- not to mention the entire global economy -- by the wayside as collateral damage.

Monday, May 09, 2011

LAW & ORDER Mothership Returns?

Well, we're four weeks into the Law & Order: LA revamp, and while the show has been creatively adrenalized, it's also been mired in the ratings toilet. While those numbers have risen slightly for the last two episodes running, it hasn't been enough of a lift to stem the feeling of general audience apathy, and a second season for the beleaguered series seems unlikely at this point. Obviously I think this is a shame, and I've already dissected the many reasons I feel NBC bungled the fortunes of this brand pretty badly.

However, a new rumor now making the rounds would appear to at least signal some awareness by the network of how they kneecapped their once-golden goose. According to TV by the Numbers, while the cancellation of LA -- sadly -- seems to be a fait accompli at this point, the Peacock may be considering allowing themselves a Mulligan by giving the Mothership Law & Order one more at-bat for an abbreviated final batch of eps -- the victory lap it never got thanks to the surprise cancellation last May.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Prayers on the Other Side

Two months ago, while visiting my family in Chicago, I performed my Friday prayers in a nearby church that had been very graciously made available by its congregants for the local Muslim community's weekly services. Sitting there and listening to the sermon, my eyes wandered to the various church accoutrements on the tables and walls, and while I was grateful for this clear display of interfaith harmony, I also couldn't help think that this is exactly the kind of thing would tick off folks on the far right. Well, as The Daily Show's John Oliver showed this past Thursday, not only is this not at all a unique phenomenon, but yep, it really does.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

End of "The Bin Laden Decade"

In the aftermath of last Sunday's events, some in the media quickly took to referring to the span of time stretching between 9/11 and now as "The Bin Laden Decade." In addition to sounding like the rejected title for a lost Robert Ludlum novel, I think this appellation elevates the man more than he deserves. Nonetheless, there is the intrinsic reality that Bin Laden's actions on that day marked a very broad, very sudden paradigm shift for the American public that involved resetting our compasses on a wide range of issues both perfunctory (remember when you could walk through airport security without taking your shoes off?) and profound (Iraq. 'nuff said).

For American-Muslims in particular, there was also a more specific kind of paradigm shift at work requiring a gut-check of our identities, and just what that means. I still remember flying to the Bay Area from Chicago in December of '01 and having the lady at the ticket counter take a very long look at my driver's license when I asked if it was a going to be a full flight (I wanted to take a nap, whaddya want?). This was probably my first realization that, "Oh yeah, I look different." While I consider encounters like that to be mostly humorous, there was still that need to reconcile sometimes-disparate shards of self-perception to ourselves, and prove to others that they could be reconciled. As I wrote in my Masters thesis a few years back:

Friday, May 06, 2011

God, Blessed

Zaki's Review: THOR

Back in 2006, when comic book giant Marvel first made the decision to self-finance and self-produce films based on its mammoth library of colorfully-clad do-gooders, it was easy to arch a furrowed, skeptical brow. They're willing to bet the farm on a big budget movie about Iron Man? Really? After all, here was a character who'd traditionally occupied the second-tier even when his title sold well, and it's not like he had the marquee value of a Spider-Man or a Hulk, right? Well, one Robert Downey and two Iron Man movies later, we all know how big Marvel's gamble paid off. It tells you something that we're now at the point where we're talking about a Thor movie, arguably a much, much bigger risk for the studio, and yet my eyebrow remains blissfully un-furrowed. Yep, they've done it again.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Recommended Reading

With the Bin Laden story already having morphed from general euphoria to standard politicking, it's worth taking a moment to remember that, in addition to the many lives that were lost as a direct or indirect result of his actions, Bin Laden also helped birth a rising tide of Islamophobia in this country that's still quite prevalent in some quarters -- as was made depressingly clear just a few days ago. Thus, while it's an old saw at this point, it's important to reiterate that Bin Laden was no religious authority, and whatever view of Islam he believed in, it's a radical interpretation that bears no resemblance to the religion practiced peacefully by millions of Muslims all over the world. CNN's Eric Marrapodi goes into greater detail about  how Bin Laden's particular theology emerged -- and how best to combat it.

The Barbarian is Back

When I last discussed the upcoming Conan the Barbarian reboot (in 3D, natch), I mentioned my optimism in the selection of actor Jason Momoa to embody Robert E. Howard's legendary rogue. From this new trailer, I'm still happy with Momoa, who seems to capture the character quite well, but I'm less happy with the general "genericness" of the whole thing. Granted, director Marcus Nispel was never going to match the bombast that John Milius gave the original back in '82, but I was hoping for something a little more stylized and a little less, I dunno, Scorpion King.

Also, the presence of 300's Tyler Bates on music duties virtually assures me that we won't get anything close to the majestic, magnificent score that the late, great Basil Pouledouris elevated the Arnold Schwarzenegger starrer with. Just to be clear, I don't think this necessarily looks bad, and I'm confident that Momoa will be quite good, but I'm also not expecting something spectacular. This may end up being yet another one of those instances where going in with lowered expectations is a good idea.

Blah.

Do you ever wonder if George Lucas just enjoys getting fanboy hackles up? Because I have to believe that's the reason the Lucasfilm team chose this as the artwork that will adorn the impending blu-ray release of the complete Star Wars cycle. Forget his constant tinkering and re-tinkering with the original three movies without hitting "Save As," and forget his perplexing aversion to letting us see the films in their theatrical forms. You just have to admire the sheer cojones it takes to have the entire breadth of the Star Wars universe -- Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Han Solo, Lando freakin' Calrissian -- to choose from, and instead settle on ten-year-old Jake Lloyd as the visual embodiment of everything your saga represents. It's like Lucas is daring you not to buy it.

Tom Welling and the Superman Curse

Staying in the Superman neighborhood for a bit longer, there's just over a week to go (and one episode remaining) until Smallville leaves the TV landscape for good on May 13, and series star Tom Welling recently chatted with Zap2It to offer up a (spoiler-free) tease of the finale, including who's coming back (Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor) and who isn't (Kristen Kreuk as Lana Lang), also reflecting on the decade-long journey that's brought both him (and us) to this point.

Reading the interview, I'm struck by how Welling, a relative newbie in the industry when the show premiered in '01, seems to have grown just as much as his small screen alter ego in the intervening decade. Having played a key creative role on Smallville as one of its executive producers and directors for the past several seasons, and also serving as producer of cheerleader dramedy Hellcats for the CW, it's clear that Welling has aspirations beyond being "that guy who played Superman but not really" for the rest of his life. This is a role that's traditionally been a pretty tough one for actors to put behind them (borne out by Brandon Routh's recent difficulties), but I'm hoping that Tom Welling might just prove the "Superman Curse" wrong.

Jackie Cooper, RIP

Jackie Cooper began acting at 3 years old, was nominated for an Academy Award at 8, and worked steadily through his adult years, but he's most well-known to me, and I'm guessing most of my readers, for his tenure as irascible Daily Planet editor Perry White in the four Christopher Reeve-era Superman movies spanning 1978 to 1987. The same way that those of my generation imprinted on Reeve as "our" Superman, I think Cooper will remain the definitive White for a pretty substantial demographic as well, with his blustery proclamation in the first film that any reporter to score a sit-down with Metroplis' new hero will get the biggest exclusive since "God talked to Moses" a nice summation of Cooper's gruff-but-lovable take.

Although he'd been retired from the business for more than two decades now, Cooper's long Hollywood career included time as a network executive, a producer, and a director (even helming some episodes of the syndicated Superboy TV show, produced by the same folks behind the movie series, in the late '80s). Cooper passing away at 88 this past Tuesday marks the loss of yet another icon who lived through some of Tinseltown's most memorable eras. It also marks the second Perry White whose death I've noted on this site, with the first being Lois & Clark's Lane Smith back in '05 (also the very first RIP piece I did here).

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Credit Hogs

On Sunday evening, shortly after the Bin Laden operation was made public, one of my favorite bloggers, Mark Evanier tweeted this he couldn't wait for Rush Limbaugh's explanation for how it was "the worst possible thing that could happen to Obama." Well, true to form, El Rushbo and the rest of his compatriots in Right Wing World didn't waste much time at all contorting themselves in knots to not only deny Obama what's pretty clearly a political win in his column, but affix it instead to his predecessor. If this sounds both predictable and ridiculous to you, then you'll appreciate how Stephen Colbert drags it to its most absurd conclusion:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Obama Takes Credit for Bin Laden's Assassination
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Willpower

I caught a screener of Thor earlier this week and expect to have my review up by tomorrow, but in the meantime, here's another look at an upcoming flick in that same vein. A month ago I posted the abbreviated version of the Green Lantern sizzle reel that played at Wondercon in San Francisco, and mentioned how it turned my opinion around about Warners' high-risk superhero epic. This new trailer, the first full one, repurposes much of the Wondercon footage and wraps it inside a slightly more polished sheen, giving me further cause to believe this will be a fun ride.

With all that said, I'm still wondering how well this will play beyond the comic book crowd that eats this stuff up anyway. I was talking to a friend this past weekend, a fellow GL enthusiast, who cited concerns about the film's aesthetic being overly fanciful and "out there" for mainstream auds, and he has a point. Part of what made Marvel's Iron Man, based on a similarly B-level character, find success in '08 was a real world grounding that helped it play beyond its base. If Green Lantern clears that hurdle, it'll do just fine, but whether it can is still an open question.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Recommended Reading

I've received several e-mails, texts and messages asking for some comment on the death of Osama Bin Laden, and I've held off because I'm not sure I really have anything substantive to add to the conversation beyond the reams and reams of stuff that's already out there. Given how much agony and suffering the man caused before, during, and after 9/11, I'm certainly not shedding any tears, but there's a part of me that also recognizes his death isn't going to change the current geopolitical landscape very much. Glenn Greenwald echoes this, offering one of the best, most sober analyses of the post-Bin Laden lay of the land:
...beyond the emotional fulfillment that comes from vengeance and retributive justice, there are two points worth considering. The first is the question of what, if anything, is going to change as a result of the two bullets in Osama bin Laden's head? Are we going to fight fewer wars or end the ones we've started? Are we going to see a restoration of some of the civil liberties which have been eroded at the altar of this scary Villain Mastermind? Is the War on Terror over? Are we Safer now?
Click on the link as Greenwald expounds on these rhetorical queries.